Judge rules for customary wife

As the deceased had maintained contact with his customary wife, he had never intended to desert her or terminate their customary union, which rendered his civil marriage invalid.

A Pretoria judge yesterday put an end to acrimonious litigation between a customary wife and the woman her late husband married in a civil ceremony when he declared the civil marriage null and void, says a report in The Citizen (see below). Acting Judge Tholi Vilakazi ruled in favour of Mashawu Joyce Baloyi against her customary husband’s second (civil) wife, Ruth Nene Muyambo. The two women had been locked in a legal battle since their husband, Gezani William Muyambo, died of natural causes several years ago without leaving a will. ‘The tensions generated by the effect of a civil marriage on a subsisting customary union has never been so great… It is regrettable that the law has been very sluggish in addressing and eliminating the scourge suffered by women married under customary marriages. This controversy dates back many centuries and it is unlikely that it will be resolved within the foreseeable future,’ he said. ‘The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act has not brought significant relief to women married according to customary law.’

Judge rules for customary wife
Source: Ilse de Lange, The Citizen
11 June 2009
PRETORIA – A high Court judge in Pretoria yesterday put an end to acrimonious litigation between a customary wife and the woman her late husband married in a civil ceremony when he declared the civil marriage null and void.
Acting Judge Tholi Vilakazi ruled in favour of Mashawu Joyce Baloyi of Mukhoni Village in Limpopo against her customary husband’s second (civil) wife, Ruth Nene Muyambo of Vereeniging.
The two women had been locked in a legal battle since their husband, Gezani William Muyambo, died of natural causes several years ago without leaving a will.
Baloyi, who had had five children with Muyambo, asked the court to set aside his civil marriage, while Ruth Muyambo wanted the court to declare her as his only lawful wife.
Vilakazi said the main issue seemed to be who was entitled to inherit from the late Muyambo’s estate, but stressed that Muyambo’s civil marriage did not in any way affect Baloyi’s material rights.
“The tensions generated by the effect of a civil marriage on a subsisting customary union has never been so great… It is regrettable that the law has been very sluggish in addressing and eliminating the scourge suffered by women married under customary marriages.
“This controversy dates back many centuries and it is unlikely that it will be resolved within the foreseeable future,” he said.
“The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act has not brought significant relief to women married according to customary law.
“It is further unfortunate that the instances which are entrusted with the administration of black estates either have no knowledge of the applicable legislation or are completely oblivious of the legislation.”
The judge found that the late Muyambo had not been entitled to marry another woman until his customary union had been dissolved, as his civil marriage had been concluded after the Customary Marriages Act came into effect.
As Muyambo had maintained contact with his customary wife, he had never intended to desert her or terminate their customary union, which rendered his civil marriage invalid, he said.

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